Propped up in front of the telly, a can of beer in one hand and a family pack of sweet chilli crisps on your lap. All set for an overdose of Netflix & chill; elements that constitute a highly successful evening off work for many. From CEOs to care workers, deliverers to designers, switching off at the end of a long day is something we long for throughout the working week. But you can do this with class – and no worries, you don’t need to forego your well-deserved beer.
Rush hour. These two words represent everything you don’t want to face in the evening – regardless of whether you’re commuting by car or riding your bike. Of course, by bike we can weave through heavy traffic to escape the city, sweat dripping unceremoniously over our brows. Perhaps we should postpone the ride and do interval training sessions in the multi-story car park at night – no, we will leave that to early spring time when we’re prepping for the season. It’s summer and it’s time to enjoy the nights off work.
There’s been a change in the wind over the past few years though; the gravel bike hype has meant we’re able to explore other parts of the city, breaking away from our offices and routines.
Chaos or nature?
At 5 pm we meet by the hills just outside of Stuttgart, the birthplace of Porsche. Our plan is to ride but we haven’t got any further than deciding the meeting place. Armed with a bike bottle and some small change, we start on our low profile off-road tires with the aim of shaking out the day’s build-up of stress from our legs and heads. Road riding in Stuttgart during rush-hour leaves you with two options: accept the traffic or get out into the nature. The latter option means you’ll have to ride over the ‘Kessel’ hills first though – we go for the Hasenberg climb, and each metre we climb gives us back a little more freedom. Coming so early into the ride, it’s not easy on the legs but who cares! Riding is ace.
From the South to the West
To many, Stuttgart is synonymous with cars, being arguably the hub of the German automotive industry. And yes, you have that option to ride your road bike on one of the many high-frequented roads where you’ll encounter stressed out car drivers that have just escaped the massive traffic jam (rush hour!) on the Autobahn, after trying in vain to release a microliter of stress by putting the pedal to the metal in their V8’s 50 meters at a time. But look beyond and you’ll realize there is almost an endless supply of gravel tracks that are screaming to be ridden. There’s also precious shade granted by the leafy canopy of trees, giving some much sought-after respite from the balminess of Stuttgart. You’ll ride through this idyll accompanied by whistling birds. Gravel, a bit of tarmac and a few meadowy shortcuts: we ride it because we couldn’t live without riding. Our bikes are our release.
Santa Cruz Stigmata CC:
Taking cues from both cyclocross and gravel riding, the Stigmata CC is Santa Cruz’s latest trophy piece. Smooth, stable and incredibly comfortable, we’re huge fans of the attractive frame and forks in the lighter CC layup. Rigid in all the right places, it’s a great bike to ride. € 10,409 (inc. ENVE LRS) / 7.91 kg (size 58) / More info
Cannondale Slate CX1:
Its matt black frame with magenta accents render this a real eye-catcher, particularly when you clock its lefty fork with 40 mm of travel. Additional comfort and stability comes from the suspension and the high-volume tires. Its handling suffered a little on tight high-speed corners due to unwanted fork compression. A bike for commuters and thrill-seekers.
€ 3,999 / 8.85 kg (size L) / More info
Free streets for free spirits
Once in the Rotwildpark nature reserve, our route skirts around the Bärenseen lakes and the cutely named ‘Bear Palace’ [Bärenschlössle] – it’s best to avoid these spots on weekends and holidays unless your preferred obstacles are children and families.
The boys are back in town
As dusk sets in, the parks are usually fairly quiet and our ride ends in the same carefree manner in which we began, with a spontaneous drop-by beer at a friend’s hip motor bike workshop in Stuttgart.
So what marks the ultimate post-work evening?
Neither the bike, nor the beer, nor Stuttgart. It’s about grabbing the chance to do exactly what you want to do. For us that’s riding, having a beer and hanging out with our mates.
What about you? Life’s too short to just Netflix & chill. Follow our lead.
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Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Noah Haxel